|"Anyone can follow their dreams, us girls included!" Shirine|
At twenty years old I decided I was going to cycle around the world alone. Having been raised in a hippy Oregonian town in the United States, I never thought twice about the fact that as a women I was setting out to do what so many believe is impossible. I have always loved to travel, and having already spent an amazing year (at eighteen) backpacking alone through South America, I really didn't consider this next adventure to be all that crazy. I never thought twice about being at a disadvantage because of my gender because I was raised in a family and by a community that valued me just as much as they valued my brother. Gender had never been an issue for me so I had never given it much thought, I'm one of the lucky few who grew up reaping the benefits of the previous feminist movements before me and therefore grew up knowing without a doubt that I'm equal in every way to my male peers.
But then I spent six months cycling alone through India and my world was torn open in a painful yet insightful way. I couldn't stop to eat in some parts of the country because when I did, I would be surrounded by every single man in the village starring leeringly at me. I was grabbed multiple times as I quietly made my way down the road, and more than once men tried to push me down a ditch while I was cycling because they wanted to have their way with me. Men handed me porn asking for naked photos of me (because every white women in their mind is a porn star), men yelled "I want to fuck you" as I walked by, and worst of all, men considered me inherently inferior just because I was born with boobs instead of a penis. Of course, there are wonderful people in India, and there is a slowly growing movement for women's rights as well, but as a whole, India is one of the worst countries in the world for women - not just due to the constant rape and abuse - but because so many men, and even many women, truly believe they are inferior because they have been told so from birth.
Most of the women in India thought I was crazy - not just in the "oh wow that's a great adventure" - sort of way, but in a "what are you doing, this is not your place as a women." I was asked by every single women I encountered if I had run away, because they couldn't imagine a farther or husband allowing me to walk around alone, and they often couldn't get their mind around the fact that I didn't have a husband or father "controlling" me at all. I never felt unequal because I know that I'm not. I never felt that what I was doing was wrong, because I know it wasn't. But what about all of the girls who grow up believing they are inferior? What about the millions of girls who truthfully believe that rape, abuse, or unequal treatment of any kind is ok, because they have never been taught otherwise?
|I loved the women throughout India and Nepal because they were fun,
lively, and strong willed even though their husbands may not know it.|
Check out more of my adventures: